Svelte lady: Iréne, Montreal, Canada by KANVA.
Text: Detail Daily
Iréne, is an urban housing project in Montreal, designed by KANVA. It explores a number of ideas that have more general application for housing projects and conversions of existing buildings.
A brick warehouse building from the 1930s presented a solid, if uninspired starting point, upon which a three storey extension has been constructed. The brick part of the building came to be seen as heavy, in its aesthetic appearance, its physical qualities, and in the historical gravity that maintains its linkage to the surrounding urban context and the collective memory of a city quarter undergoing rapid development.
This then, was the foundation for a break with the old aesthetic order and the opportunity for new, light, modern and adaptable construction to colonize the building and the district.
The key to the development is of course the sophisticated metallic façade. It provides an interface with the external environment and the apartments by offering, as well as insulation, solar shade, daylight, ventilation and privacy. These variables can be adjusted by the building user. In this way, the effects of the wide climatic variations between summer and winter can be mitigated without compromising the practical living experience.
But the façade also has a strong aesthetic character. It creates a richness in transparency, modulates the appearance of solid and void, light and shadow. From a distance however the appearance of the building is somewhat monolithic and the identities of individual apartments, and by extension their owners, appear subsumed in the nature of “mass housing”. In other words, despite its richness and sophistication there is an unnecessary anonymity to the building.
It is encouraging that the technical qualities of the façade were properly studied and prototyped, producing an innovative solution that could be applied to other buildings particularly, I would argue, renovation of 60's housing projects.